AT NINETEEN I NEVER SLEPT

If I had something to do I would not do it and neither would I 
give in, betraying myself, punished and stretched, drinking coffee topped 

with ten dollar bottles of whisky, leaving at two or three in the morning 
to do groceries or to take a tour of the neighbourhood

which then was Yonge Street, Dundas Square, Church, 
Carleton. I was always being touched by strangers.

A man in his car followed my roommate home from work, driving five 
per hour for blocks. Someone whose gender was more fluid 

stopped their car on Bloor in the early morning, asking for directions
to the very next intersection. Then asked if I wanted 

a ride home. This isn’t what I’d meant to write. For blocks 
I’d followed some oafish drug dealer (he looked cartoonish,

a fat Chong) as he shook down his colleagues and friends
then disappeared into a faded deli with bleached posters of Mats Sundin,

his eerie whitish Scandanavian smile. Wood panelling, stove topped 
with dust. A place found always locked when I’d tried

to eat what I was sure would not be good. Nothing was. It was
a different time. With disbelief I found that night 

that I was alive. Running to catch a light, closing the careful 
distance. Before I lost him. As if there was some meaning. 

I never got in the car. Rhinestones, a wig, long blue dress, 
two days of stubble, elegant evening wear for a hazy, late,

empty November. But perhaps I might have, if I had known
a little more, had been somehow even hungrier 

Whatever was waiting for me. Eager to be noticed, as when the year before
I’d almost cashed a stranger’s cheque. Instead I pointed 

to the very next set of lights. We could almost read the sign. Didn’t wonder
what was sitting with them. Not until I’d turned away.

Love is a cracking open. Not in the way I think most people assume. It is not necessarily that your beloved makes you fall to pieces, when you fall in love, though this is how it has been represented, time and time again, in art, in literature, in songs. And this can certainly happen, usually not for the best. Instead I think that the vulnerability love requires asks that you crack open. This is a fine distinction. One involuntary, the other voluntary. One is entirely based on the beloved and what they can do for you, the other based on your own availability, your own openness. It is so tricky, knowing whether you can or should trust. Getting over your own wariness, getting over yourself, choosing the one that you love. Choosing them, over and over again—what a risk, to put yourself in that position, walking out on that ledge, trusting that they will be there to balance you. Trusting too, that you will want them there with you.

How much you could lose. 

In the distance and from their great height you can see the long bank of clouds advancing, four seconds of dialogue before the frame skips away. It’s like the nothing, someone says. From the movie. A candied griffin sticker winks in the bottom of the frame, a chibi boy clutching to its back. There is the stream or the highway advancing as you flip forward. As you pause and as you rewind. Late night a psychic living somewhere in upstate New York goes live, smoking a single cigarette on a lit up patio, alone in front of a black and silent house, reading from a book about energy and transfer, about wealth and its generation, 

but also a kind of destiny that comes from feeling what you are meant to feel. Something about her voice, its accent and inflection, the single cigarette, the earnestness with which she reads aloud passages from the book as she is spotlighted in the dark, feels somehow both like God is speaking through America, a deep part of America that you have always known was there, or that you are on a far-off planet listening to sounds that only aliens or angels are meant to hear. How do we know each other, she messages you later, having noticed you among five or six regulars 

clients or poets or energy transferers, and you cannot say exactly how or why you are compelled, how you have let her credulous voice enter you, watching the stream until your eyelids close, drifting easily to sleep as she continues, peering into or out of the darkness. She reads both on the patio and in the interior of her car, with the dash light on and the windows rolled down to let the air out for her smoke. Other days you see the rain collect and run together on the glass, its movement always somehow a reminder of where you have been and where you have yet to go. Like she is speaking from some far off self, like an attendant to memory is touring the gentle siteless moments of your past, the wipers on the windows, the kiss of the door trilling softly when it is left ajar. Stopping on an empty road in the night, long grass brushing the car, cabin light barely penetrating the field. 

BEFORE COMPLETION

Pain in the morning. Ask a question I never ask. The answer is delay. Wait indefinitely, I know it is saying. I know that’s the answer, too. By the afternoon the feeling has faded. A long time since I have asked that question, felt it acutely, vocalized it into the air. Looked for exits. I seem doomed to repeat this movement, over and over again, long after I thought I never would. 

Watching for signs. Waiting for anything. 

Never to receive what I’m sure will never come.  

In windows on my way to campus I look bloated, heavy, weighed down. In a bathroom I see the size I really am—I don’t look anything like I thought. Walking through a fog. Walking in the weight of last year. On my way back this afternoon a ladybug hitched a ride on my shirt, like a bright red stain out of the corner of my eye. I wondered how long it would stay with me. 

Looked up its meaning: happiness, good fortune, true love, innocence. Needing to make the right decisions. 

When I looked back down it was gone.